Lame Duck Session Stalls Greenway Heritage Area Designation

In a disappointing ending, Congress adjourned over the weekend without taking action on legislation to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area.

The lame duck session proved to be challenging to navigate and at the end of the day Congress could not find agreement on the Energy bill, which emerged as the most promising vehicle for passing a variety of land conservation efforts, including our NHA designation and permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

We want to extend great thanks to our congressional sponsors for their championship and persistence. Senator Maria Cantwell, with her role as Ranking Member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, worked up until the last moment trying to negotiate an energy bill compromise with the House, and to include Greenway NHA legislation. In the House, Congressman Dave Reichert kept up the pressure, reminding House leadership of the broad local support and economic benefits of this designation.

While we are disappointed that legislation failed to pass, the outpouring of support from Greenway residents over the last four years has reminded us of the invaluable strength and resilience of our region. More than 6,500 endorsers said it loud and clear: our region is iconic and precious, and our way of working here—bipartisan efforts, creative problem solving—are truly a model for the rest of the nation.

Many lands bills fail because they have limited local support or fail to generate bipartisan sponsorship. The Greenway NHA legislation stands out from the rest because it has broad support from residents, businesses, and government agencies; and strong congressional champions. It has been one of the few lands bills in the country that has passed favorably out of both the House and the Senate committees in recent years. And local advocacy is complemented by a strong team working on this in Washington, D.C. REI Co-op, the Outdoor Industry Association, the Outdoor Alliance, and many others have been working the halls of Congress with us to move this legislation forward.


Why Create a Greenway National Heritage Area

When we are connected with nature, our lives are better. The Mountains to Sound Greenway offers world-class recreation and spectacular open spaces on the doorstep of our urban areas. This high quality of life makes us healthier and happier, and helps attract tourism and top employers that keep our economy strong. Designation of the Greenway National Heritage Area would recognize these strengths and allow the Greenway to serve as a national model for collaborative conservation.

National Heritage Area designation provides a non-regulatory approach to conservation and will not affect private property, water, hunting, or fishing rights.


Our Journey over the Last Four Years

Greenway National Heritage Area legislation was originally introduced nearly four years ago by Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Congressmen Dave Reichert and Adam Smith. A strong showing our first congressional session saw us in the mix in the final days, but at the end just missed being included in the final lands package approved by Congress. Moving anything in Congress is a challenge and federal land designations often take many years to achieve. The designations of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and the North Cascades took decades—great things often do. So our coalition regrouped to strategize our second introduction of legislation.

Bipartisan legislation was reintroduced in 2015: Senate bill 1690 was introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and House bill 2900 was introduced by Congressmen Dave Reichert and Adam Smith, with support from Suzan DelBene and Jim McDermott.

Then, legislation achieved a major milestone in the legislative process with favorable passage out of the Senate committee on July 13th, 2016.

In addition to support in Congress, designation has been endorsed by over 6,500 businesses, governments, non-profits and individuals, including Governor Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, the Kittitas County Commissioners, Microsoft, Expedia, REI, the Trust for Public Land, and the Mountaineers.


Next Steps

Over the next few weeks/months, we will regroup with our congressional sponsors and other key supporters to debrief on this past congressional session and strategize about future legislation and advocacy.

As we kick off work next year, we hope to show even greater support for this effort. Please help spread the word and share with friends and family. You can also help by signing the Greenway NHA Petition, showing to Congress that the Mountains to Sound Greenway is important to you.

Thank you for your support all the way along this journey.  While this is disappointing news, we remain committed to securing official recognition of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and we are grateful to have such strong, bipartisan support from so many people across our region